all my friends are dead

After last week’s Game of Thrones episode with its infamous Red Wedding scene, watchers of the show wait on the edge of their seats to find out what could possibly happen next and readers are wondering where in the heart-pounding series of events in A Storm of Swordsthe show creators will decide to end this season.

In an Entertainment Weekly interview, author George R. R. Martin replied to questions about how he coped with writing such a bloody, tragic scene, and how he dealt with the initial reader reaction:

People read books for different reasons. I respect that. Some read for comfort. And some of my former readers have said their life is hard, their mother is sick, their dog died, and they read fiction to escape. They don’t want to get hit in the mouth with something horrible. And you read that certain kind of fiction where the guy will always get the girl and the good guys win and it reaffirms to you that life is fair. We all want that at times. There’s a certain vicarious release to that. So I’m not dismissive of people who want that. But that’s not the kind of fiction I write, in most cases. It’s certainly not what Ice and Fire is. It tries to be more realistic about what life is. It has joy, but it also had pain and fear. I think the best fiction captures life in all its light and darkness.

First of all, one of the things I admire about Martin in this interview is how nonjudgmental he is of escapist fiction. He’s not saying that readers who want a soothing story are wrong or stupid or lazy readers; he’s just saying they’re not the readers for his books.

In that quote, Martin is implying that his series isn’t really escapism, at least not the way he defines it. But Game of Thrones is escapism, it’s just escapism for people who enjoy escaping into a world of heart-pounding drama and pornographic levels of gore. Not all forms of escapism are about comfortable sedation in a pain-free world. But just adding more gore and senseless tragedy doesn’t necessarily make a story more realistic.